Pros and Cons of Three Strikes Law

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Three strikes laws were designed to be a discouragement to repetitively breaking the law. Upon a third conviction within certain categories of crime, a mandatory life sentence is generally imposed. The result is intended to create a safer society. Has it worked? Here is a look at the pros and cons of the three strikes law.

What Are the Pros of the Three Strikes Law?

1. It creates a fair sentencing guideline.
Everyone is subjected to the same standardized sentencing guidelines, allowing for there to be no question as to what will happen on a third strike. If you’re found guilty, you’re going to prison for a specific period of time.

2. It quickens the pace of the justice system.
When there is a standardized sentence to be imposed, then there is less time needed to determine what specific sentence should be applied to each individual’s case. There’s one outcome and one outcome only.

3. It gets repeat offenders off the streets for good.
Habitual offenders have had a chance for rehabilitation and not taken advantage of it. Standardized sentencing on a third strike makes sure that the rest of society doesn’t have to deal with continuing crime.

What Are the Cons of the Three Strikes Law?

1. It increases prison populations.
The US has one of the largest per capita prisoner populations in the world. It costs up to $40,000 per prisoner per year to meet just their basic needs and in states like Oregon or Washington, it’s closer to $60,000 per year. That cash comes from taxpayer pockets.

2. It doesn’t allow for individual variability.
Standardized sentencing doesn’t take into account any circumstances when there’s a third strike. If a guilty verdict occurs, the sentence is automatic. There are several examples in the US for 20+ year sentences being handed down for being in possession of less than 1g of an illicit drug.

3. Most third strikers are not incarcerated for serious or violent offenses.
In California, 59% of those serving a second strike sentence were incarcerated for a non-serious offense. 46% of third strikers can say the same. This accounts for more than 24,000 prisoners in just one state.

The pros and cons of the three strikes law show that in theory, it could be a beneficial system. In reality, however, more prisoners who have committed non-serious offenses are serving extended sentences simply because of a repeat offense. When the costs of housing prisoners is considered, these key points must be carefully evaluated.